SLV, Plumbers and Gasfitters

Site Overview

site name:
Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building
Graeme Gunn
date of completion:
52 Victoria St, Melbourne, Victoria
Commercial (COM)
protection status:
Victorian Heritage Register (H2307)
– National Trust of Australia Heritage Register Victoria (B7016)
Citation 1971


Graeme Gunn’s Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees’ Union office is a tough small commercial building in the contemporary Brutalist mode, a perfect reflection of its militant client, and able to hold its own on a narrow site in busy Victoria Street, in the shadow of the looming Trades Hall. Following modernist principles of truth to materials, technology and function, Gunn exploited the construction process, creating strong sculptural forms arranged to express three different functions within a coherent, monolithic composition. His entry stair wraps tightly around the façade, drawing the visitor up into the building to the conference room where unionists gather behind the great protruding window, while the less dynamic floor above provides more anonymous rental offices. Gunn’s fine-grained external concrete was achieved by a laminated construct of Masonite and 20mm thick plywood formwork.  It contributed a natural organic appearance with the character of undressed timber, scoring the building’s surface and expressing the construction process, while regular patterns of bolt cone holes appear as controlling grids.

Text adapted from an entry by Judith Trimble in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).

Brutalist architecture

The Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees’ Union Building is regarded as one of the finest examples of Brutalist architecture in Victoria, and has proven to be a seminal essay in the development of the Brutalist vernacular, along with the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool (1969). The design articulated key ethical and aesthetic directives which influenced architecture in Victoria throughout the 1970s, such directives which included:

  • Unorthodox arrangement of masses and voids
  • The honest valuation of construction materials and exposure of natural finishes
  • Transparency of program through the plan
  • Emphasis on circulation

Due to the cultural and architectural significance, the PGEUB has a State Level of Cultural Heritage, under the category of Trade Union Office, issued by the Australian National Trust. (source: Wikipedia)


  1. Architect Victoria RAIA VIC awards 2007, 54
    Goad, Philip, Melbourne Architecture, Boorowa, NSW: The Watermark Press, 2009, p199
  2. Victorian Heritage Database Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees’ Union Building
  3. ‘’Architect’ , volume 3 number 14, August 1971
  4. ‘’Goad, Philip, Melbourne Architecture, Boorowa, NSW: The Watermark Press, 2009, p203’’